One balance that I find particularly difficult in life is that of time. I’m always running around trying to get stuff done and I very rarely have time to relax. I know the importance of just mellowing out every so often, but life is so short and there is so much to do that I often take the “sleep is for the dead” approach. Many people prefer to take life more slowly and take on less obligations, and that’s fine- but they can benefit from stretching their perception of time too.
The trick in finding your balance is knowing what’s negotiable and what’s not in order to alter your perception of time. Anyone who knows me will tell you that my only real “pet peeve” is hearing someone say “I don’t have time.” Nobody magically “has” time. Successful people create time, because if something is important you must find the time for it. End of story. I find it incredibly important to go to the gym every day, so I make time for it no matter what. I’ll sleep less, I’ll scarf a meal faster than I should (I’m the master of the four-minute lunch), I’ll be a few minutes late to the practice room- I even schedule my classes and rehearsals around gym time. I’m not joking. To me, it is a major priority (possibly a major addiction but hey, it’s better than crack).
When you grasp the idea of priorities, your day will magically start to get longer. Seriously- you will begin to do things more efficiently because you have incentive, and your perception of time will just expand to fill it. It’s proven: Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time you have to do them. Well, Fiona’s Law states that tasks also shrink to fill the time you have to do them. Haven’t you ever noticed that the busiest people have the most time?
It’s all about priorities and give and take. If it is a priority for you to go for a run before breakfast twice a week, make it happen no matter what. Go to bed earlier the night before, arrange your schedule at work a bit differently, stash breakfast at your office- whatever it takes. When you start to sort out one priority at a time, soon you won’t even think about scheduling anymore. It becomes second nature to figure out what’s the most efficient way of getting things done so that you can make more time for your priorities. Here are a few quick tips to help you start prioritising and finding more time:
- Start small. Suddenly trying to find four hours every day to practice painting will not happen. Start with an extra half an hour, and slowly find more when the opportunities arise.
- Small bits of time add up. Say you have six classes in a day. If you wait around for fifteen minutes before each of those classes, that’s 90 minutes right there. Do something small during those 90 minutes that you would usually have to do at another time, like reading or checking emails.
- Move quickly. Seriously, people waste so much time walking slowly. Get some exercise and get places faster- two birds with one stone! Also, walking quickly alters your entire mindset- you’ll be much more productive.
- Multitask. Research shows that those who multitask don’t do as well with each task. That may be true, but now much effort does it really take to do the dishes while the water is boiling for dinner? Or to stop at the post office on the way to the bank instead of making two trips? Pay bills online while you’re on hold with customer service?
- Sort your tasks. Sort of like multitasking: check your emails, facebook, twitter, pay online bills, do anything that needs your computer- at the same time. If you do similar tasks at the same time, you can move from one to the next much faster than if you were running back and forth all over the place.
- Say no. I’m all for taking awesome opportunities and saying “yes” all the time. But if you’re really in a time crunch and someone asks you to do something that you know someone else is available to do, don’t feel pressured to say yes.
- Schedule. I’m a very spontaneous person, but I do keep a schedule. If you have a schedule of what you need to do in some sort of chronological order (nothing formal, just something loose like “go to the gym for 2 hours in the morning, lunch, go to the bank, then practice for 3 hours, etc.) then you can know exactly how much flexibility you have when something inevitably gets thrown off, you know when you can take a 20-minute coffee break, and you won’t get stressed if you fall a wee bit behind.
- Organised to-do lists. Sort of like a schedule, but more long-term. I keep a list of all my assignments with things that need to get done ASAP and things that have dates way off in the future. Prioritise things that are due soon, but let yourself slack a little bit with things that are further off in the future.
- Manage your media. We live in such a cluttered world. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, commercials, TV…these things are all huge time sucks. How easy is it to creep on your friends for an hour when you just meant to shoot a quick message, or watch four episodes of Modern Family because they’re all on Hulu? I’m not saying to go crazy and delete all your accounts, but at be conscious of how much time you spend “plugged in.” Not only does it physically take time, but it also adds stress and overstimulation to your life.
- Sleep less. In a healthy way, not in a miserable caffeine-dependent way.
- Don’t be a slave. The idea isn’t the whip yourself to misery. The point is, by slowly making adjustments to how you perceive time you will naturally become a more efficient person. Sometimes you just need to park it on the sofa and sit still for awhile, and that’s totally fine.